A long-time customer with a robust sense of humor recently asked me to name some of the stranger things I’ve pulled out of toilets over the years. I told her about several of the interesting, and not so interesting, things I have retrieved. It also gave me a jolt, causing me to reflect on how much has changed in the past 35 years I have been involved in the plumbing trade.
Back in the day, most plugged toilet calls resulted when someone inadvertently flushed a cloth diaper they were soaking in the toilet. After the first flush, they would try again. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand what a mess these calls were. As our society has changed to a “disposable society,” we haven’t had this type of call in years. Actually, it’s kind of sad. Regardless, never flush diapers of any kind, disposable or not, down the toilet.
Then, there are the “staples” of plugged toilet calls. These include eyeglasses, combs, hair brushes and tooth brushes. Surprisingly, dental floss is another big offender in these calls. And, as more grandparents care for their grandchildren these days, the miniature car has become a real popular, although not so flushable, toy.
In a nod to the 21st century, cell phones have become the latest big winner in the toilet obstruction sweepstakes. Who doesn’t know someone who has dropped their phone into the can in the midst of a heated conversation? I never waited around to find out, but they tell me that some new phones will actually still work after a dunking, but I don’t think I, even as a plumber experienced in these matters, could get past the, uh, well, you-know-what factor.
About a month ago, I finally ran into a foreign-object-in-the toilet problem I’d never encountered. My customer said he had dropped a dog bone into his toilet. “No problem” I told him. “This will be a breeze,” I thought, as I drove toward his home, the typical dog-bone-in-the-toilet removal. However, it was a major problem. It wasn’t just a dog bone, it was a dog bone shaped like a steer’s horn, small on one end with a curve and a wedge-like shape on the other end.
I am kind of proud of the fact that in 35 years, I’ve only broken one toilet trying to remove something from it. This bone, however, brought that total to two toilets. After trying every trick in the trade, and warning the customer that we were at the “make it or break it” point, the extraction broke the toilet. Even after cracking the toilet, it still took a hammer and a complete toilet destruction to remove this dog bone. I returned the bone to the homeowner, but as you can see from the picture, the dog was unimpressed.
Just a reminder for all our homeowners: Keep foreign objects, even dog bones, far away from your toddlers and toilets. Combining the two is a toilet-blocking combination.